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35th ANA Convention: Partial weaning of Hill-Top Arts teen authors

•A cross-section of the teenage authors

T O secure the future, somebody or some people must sacrifice their today. When Awwalu Sakiwa posted his picture, sandwiched by Hauwa Shafi’i Nuhu and Deborah Oluniran at the 34th International Convention of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), which was held in Kaduna in 2015, he tagged it “Me and the future.” One thing was sure about that: Sakiwa didn’t take the shot because of the ‘future.’ He did it because he is a custodian of the future; the future of creative writing in Nigeria as the Director of the Hill-Top Arts Centre, Minna, Niger State. We all loved the caption. We love it because it summarises the philosophy of our toils at the arts centre with the numerous teen authors we produce, annually. The two goddesses he posed with represent a brilliant future for writing in Nigeria.

Sakiwa has been around with me at the art centre since 2004 when it opened as an institution where he became the custodian of the facility and operations. I handed over the centre to him when I was leaving Hill-Top Model School for IBB University, Lapai, in August 2006. Hill-Top Arts Centre was an experiment of the possibility of producing excellent writers through mentoring. We wanted to promote teen authorship as an idea and a strategy for achieving quality writing. Therefore, from 1997 when our first book of teen authors came out to the 35th ANA Convention, 2016 when Halima Aliyu (one of the centre’s pioneers) took ten teen authors, six of whom were published, to the ANA convention, the distant future we sought 12 years ago, appears to be a brilliant sunrise at our hands whose radiant destination is to smoothly dip gloriously at the western sky of Nigerian literature.

The participation of the Hill-Top Arts Centre at the 35th ANA Convention was the bumpiest of all the ANA conventions we have ever attended. We, from ANA Niger, along with ANA Lagos of the old established a reputation for going to conventions with anthologies and new titles by members; a tradition that many chapters like Benue, Ondo, Kaduna, Imo, Kano etc have come to copy. Lagos appears to have fallen apart. It is on record that ANA Niger has pioneered not less than five national anthologies for both teen and established authors in the past. The last of which was Beyond Limits (anthology of Nigerian teen authors) administered by the national body in 2013.

This year (2016), Niger did not attend with any anthology (anthology is a deal done), rather, through the activities of the Hill-Top Arts Centre, we brought out glaringly, the flourishing genre of teen authorship we started in 2004. Six new teen and young authors flashed their titles to the admiration of adults at the convention. It was a momentous success for the proprietors and sponsors of the scheme at the Abuja convention.

Journalists, state chapters, writers, patrons of the art, all acknowledged the progress of the vision to make future writers start-out concretely from primary and secondary school age. The Hill-Top Arts Centre proudly presented her 2016 published authors in Mustapha Gimba, author of Memoirs of a broken heart; Anas Dubanni, author of Whispers in the shadow; Peter Kwange, author of Deflowered; Priscilla Adesina, author of The After Party; Fidelis Obaseki, author of Chronicles; Victor Ugwu, author of Rhythms as well as Khadija Jagaba, Amina Umar, Gloria Zhiri and Miracle Attah whose books are in the works. The motherly and fatherly roles of Halima Aliyu and Saddiq Dzukogi are well in tandem with the philosophy of regeneration associated with ANA Niger.

For Saddiq, his annual perpetual sit on shortlist(three in five years) gives us the confidence that the future is ours at the art centre. Saddiq keep talking about Peter and Victor while Halima talks about Priscilla, Khadija, Amina and Miracle. I talk about Halima Sayyadi as much as Isyaku Bala (Nupe writer) talks about Gloria Zhiri. Let all of these represent one bundle of success for Nigerian literature, tomorrow.

Primary to our successful outing at the 35th ANA convention from 27th – 30th October, 2016 are the sponsors of our publications for the year. On hand was Aunty Teresa Oyibo Ameh who sponsored Fidelis Obaseki’s book. They met for the first time. Teresa, a writer of children’s stories is from Kogi State, while Fidelis is from Delta State. Voluntarily she asked me how much it cost to sponsor a book. I told her N200, 000, and she paid. Prof. Faruk is the Provost of the Niger State College of Education who was the first to come to our help in January 2016 with the publication of Mustapha Gimba’s book. Prof. Faruk is a patron of the art centre and my teacher at ABU Zaria. Prof. Faruk is from Suleja, while Mustapha is from Bida, all in Niger State. Next was my boss, Prof. Nasiru Maiturare; Vice Chancellor, IBB University, Lapai who sponsored Peter Kwange’s book. The simple, amiable gentleman Professor readily approved our request for Peter without qualms. Peter is from Rijauwhile Maiturare is from Paiko. Dr. Abubakar Dzukogi, the Rector of Federal Polytechnic Bida published Victor Ugwu from Anambra State. Diego Okenyodo, a writer from Benue state is sponsoring Amina Umar from Niger state. Diego was at the launch of Saddiq’s  first book at the arts centre in 2004. He was the first man to publish Saddiq in Young Trusters of the then Weekly Trust in 2000.

Two gentlemen (Gbagyi people) who have paid for two teen authors are Hon. Mikail Al’Amin Bmitosai (current Chief of Staff to the governor of Niger State) and Engr. Yahaya D. Daudu. The Chief of Staff paid for Anas Dubanni and Priscilla Adesina while Engr. Yahaya paid for Khadija Jagaba and Miracle Attah.